This week began with a wonderful dinner as the AIIM NE Chapter wrapped-up their 16th annual Golf Tournament to benefit the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston. You can read more about that at my AIIM blog. I took advantage of an opportunity to score a twofer by staying over and attending the Enterprise 2.0 conference – well, the keynotes, general sessions and exhibits a.k.a. the cheap ticket. Why did I go to E2.0, and what does it have to do with SharePoint?
I like going to E2.0 because it gives me a little insight into what lies ahead. Technology is a lot like a railroad; you may not be planning to board the next train, but somebody could be on that train, coming to see you. When technologies start gaining serious momentum, they end-up on my doorstep as an expectation. I don’t want my users, or worse, our customers asking me “why don’t we do…?” You might be saying “yeah, but is E2.0 anywhere near that stage of adoption?” Well, both Deloitte and IBM talked about having recently created on-line Developer Communities around E2.0. In and of itself, the fact that these two powerhouses are gearing up for real-world work in this area is impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that both organizations have signed-up over a million developers! When I hear numbers like that, I realize that E2.0 features will proliferate, and sooner rather than later I will need to include them in our projects.
How might this affect our SharePoint development? Actually, as I sat through about five hours of 15-minute keynote presentations, I asked myself that question constantly, and to my surprise, I have a fairly long list of notes. I tossed one in the lap of my Microsoft VAR on Thursday. Brett Shockley, SV President, Corporate Development & Strategy, Avaya talked about websites that not only list phone numbers or email addresses for people, but allow you to connect with people via voice and video. Our Internet facing SharePoint server shows our customers a custom filtered list of the members of their Account Team. I thought that was a neat accomplishment, but I wonder if Micorsoft Linc will be able to show Presence and let customers connect to our staff. I’m not sure we have, as Brett put it: “resources that are video ready” but being able to click and ask a question as opposed to pecking out an email is something I can see people appreciating. My Account Rep says “we will make that work!” Then if we can let our employee know what that person was looking at when they placed the call, we would have a cool solution.
I think the larger body of work for my team will fall into the category of helping SharePoint to not fail. Several speakers talked about the concept of threats to E2.0 technology, either by it sinking under its own weight or through misanthropic management. John Hagel (Deloitte) talked about a study that found that Return on Assets has fallen by 75% since 1965. The study he was talking about suggested that the downward slide was due to “performance pressure” and he talked about the lack of passion among employees. Your mileage may vary, but SharePoint does have the ability to build or crush passion. In a recent post over on my AIIM blog, I was urging people not to “over formalize” the processes that they build. I talked about our recent project where we stopped short of making a peer-review step mandatory for all reports submitted to a library. We know that some people already solicit input from their peers, and it seems dangerous to me to start requiring and measuring that activity.
In a thought provoking session, Andrew McAfee (MIT, pictured above) described a potential, albeit unlikely, worst case scenario threat. He worries that technology like IBM’s Watson will be used to glean so much information from unrelated material that the systems we build to encourage human interaction will be irrelevant. He wondered aloud if “bad bosses and new-fangled computers” could team up to send us back to the days of being trapped in our cubicles doing our work without the need for outside interaction – scary stuff indeed. Even armed with the great techniques Marc Anderson taught us last week, I don’t think I will have to worry about that threat, but is does serve as food for thought.
Andrew also provided the best quote and the best hope for me in the show. He quoted Lew Platt, former CEO of HP, who said “If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times as profitable.” What a great goal for people building out a SharePoint solution, “knowing what we know” – I like it!